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Menu plans for the home dinner table

Creating modern-day, family-friendly recipes for the ketogenic diet.

Family—board games, late-night movies, get-togethers, and food—always food. The kitchen, for most families, is the centre of the home, and for many, fond memories revolve around it. So it’s imperative to The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) that families with children dealing with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) have recipes and menu plans to continue their challenging dietary treatment at home. Meals need to contain the right combination of fat and nutrients while not losing sight of good taste and palatability.

Learn more about the project below.

The Challenge

The Epilepsy Ketogenic Diet Program at SickKids focuses on treating children with DRE using a clinically proven diet. The SickKids team of dieticians, physicians, nurses, and social workers work with approximately 70 children and their families. While effective, the original high-fat, low-carbohydrate protocol created in 1921 can be difficult for modern-day, time-strapped families to adhere to.

The GBC Solution

Ten recipes were developed using the Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) ketogenic diet criteria of ingredients to balance fat and other nutrient intake, which were then evaluated and validated by: Dr. Elizabeth Donner, Director, SickKids Comprehensive Epilepsy Program; Christiana Liu, Registered Dietitian; and Helen Lowe, Registered Dietitian. They also considered food cost containment to ensure the recipes remained affordable.

Working alongside the Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt) team, Helen Lowe reflects on the project, “It was a fabulous experience to work with the George Brown College staff and students. The whole team was committed to developing something we felt would be helpful for our patients.”

Christiana Liu, Registered Dietitian, appreciated FIRSt’s dedication, “From the very first meeting, they made a real effort to understand the ketogenic diet and the importance of having good tasty recipes that fit into a very regulated medical treatment. Throughout the whole process, from the initial meeting to our final taste testing session, the staff were open to discussion and listened to our feedback. Their positive attitude and willingness to adjust the recipes helped us reach our goal of creating new options for our busy families.”

The Result

The products developed by FIRSt were applauded for being more accessible and enjoyable for families and led to improved adherence to the Ketogenic Diet, less overall family stress and helped realize the beneficial health outcomes associated with it. In addition, knowledge transfer of the finalized recipes and menu was provided by SickKids dietitians to participating families in the form of a cookbook.

“The researchers and staff have a strong understanding of the science behind recipe development, baking and cooking. Without this expertise, we would not have known how to develop recipes for the foods we wanted for our families,” says Helen. “Our families are looking for foods that are usually hard to include in the ketogenic diet, such as crackers, pasta, and muffins. With the development of these recipes, we have been able to expand the foods available for children in a way that is more compatible with their diet restrictions. Since sharing these recipes with families, we have received positive feedback. Our goal is to help improve the quality of life of children and families who require an MCT ketogenic diet, and working with the George Brown team has proved incredibly positive and helped us achieve our goals.”

Food is an important piece of the family puzzle, and with this new resource it will hopefully become one less worry for families on their road to better quality living.